What is a mixed credit file?

Man reading about having a mixed credit file on his phone and looking thoughtfully out the windowImage: Man reading about having a mixed credit file on his phone and looking thoughtfully out the window

In a Nutshell

A mixed credit file can happen when your credit information is commingled with someone else’s on your credit report that you don’t recognize. If you think you might have a mixed credit file, it’s important to take action right away because it could negatively affect your credit scores. The good news is that credit bureaus are legally obligated to investigate disputed information.
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If you see information belonging to someone else on your credit report, you could have a mixed credit file.

Did you know that there are more than 2.4 million people in the U.S. who share the last name Smith? Sharing a name with someone is just one of the reasons you might have a mixed credit file.

Let’s look at why you might have a mixed credit file, what you can do if you discover someone else’s information on your credit report and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.

What does it mean to have a mixed credit file?

If your credit report shows someone else’s information or credit accounts, you may have what’s called a mixed credit file.

Having information on your credit report that doesn’t belong to you can affect your credit scores in a negative way. Another person’s delinquent accounts could affect your payment history. Or if they’re maxing out their credit cards and it’s showing up on your report, your credit utilization rate could increase, which may lower your scores. Lower scores can make it difficult to get approved for a loan or credit. And if you do get approved, you’ll likely have higher interest rates.

But sometimes having accounts that don’t belong to you on your credit history could actually give your credit score a boost — especially if they’re in good standing or round out your credit mix.

But even if having a mixed credit file is helping your credit scores, it’s still not a good idea to have other people’s information on your account since more errors will likely appear on your credit file over time. Additionally, if that person’s credit scores dropped, yours would too.

Why do I have a mixed credit file?

Not sure why you have a mixed credit file? Here are some reasons people’s credit histories might get mixed up.

Data entry errors

With the amount of information handled by creditors and the credit bureaus, mistakes are bound to happen. They might result from a simple typo, such as mixing up the digit on a Social Security number, a misspelled first name or swapping a first and middle name.

Sometimes issuers might make other mistakes, such as accidentally assigning an authorized user ownership to an account, failing to update records or change records after a dispute, or assigning payment to a wrong account.

Family member with the same name

If you share a name with a family member, you may end up with a mixed credit file. For example, if you’re John Smith Jr. and your father is John Smith Sr., you might end up with a commingled file, especially if you live at the same address. This can also happen if you have a name that’s similar to someone else’s — even if you’re not related.

Different ways of spelling your name

Staying consistent with how you enter your name on credit applications is important, especially if you use a shortened version of your name or go by your middle name. For example, if your name is Elizabeth Garcia, using the names Liz Garcia or Beth Garcia when applying for credit could create errors on your credit file that may lead to a mixed credit report.

Name changes

Have you legally changed your name after a marriage, divorce or any other reason? If the credit bureau isn’t able to match your new name to your maiden name or other existing information, you could end up with missing information or even two different credit files.

Identity fraud

If someone creates an account using your name, Social Security number or birthdate — or takes over one of your existing accounts by, say, making purchases online with your information — you could be a victim of identity theft. But since the account is in your name, it’ll still show up on your credit report.

How do I fix a mixed credit file?

The good news is that if you discover you have a mixed credit file, it can be fixed.

In 2015, the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — came together to launch the National Consumer Assistance Plan, which makes it easier for people to correct errors on their credit reports and help make credit reports more accurate.

Contact the credit bureaus

If you find credit information on one or more of your reports that belongs to someone else, you’ll need to report it to all of the credit bureaus where you have a mixed credit file. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureaus must investigate and correct any mistakes.

To file a dispute, start by identifying any information that doesn’t belong to you, including names, addresses, accounts or any other identifying information. To verify your identity, the credit bureaus will also ask for details such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number and your address.

If you believe that the incorrect information belongs to a relative or someone you know, be sure to inform the credit bureau as this may help your dispute get resolved more quickly.

Contact the creditors

In addition to filing a dispute with each of the credit bureaus where you may have a mixed credit report, it’s important to also contact the creditors that reported the incorrect information and let them know there’s been a mistake.

Like the credit bureaus, by law, they have to conduct a free investigation to verify the information and correct a mistake, if they find one.

What’s next?

Checking your credit reports regularly or enrolling in credit monitoring can help you make sure that all of your information is correct and allow you to catch a mixed file early. Credit-monitoring services will send alerts any time there’s an important change to an account on your credit reports.

As a consumer, you can request your free credit reports from the bureaus once each year at annualcreditreport.com. You can also sign up for Credit Karma for free to see your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and VantageScore 3.0 credit scores as well as get free credit monitoring.

About the author: Sarah Archambault is a freelance writer based in New England. She enjoys learning new ways to spend money wisely and helping others figure out how to make smart financial decisions. Sarah is a graduate of the Newhouse… Read more.